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Fregoli Syndrome

April 24, 2017 • Los Angeles

Leopoldo Fregoli in about 1900It’s probably not kosher to talk about mental disorders as fun, but as plot devices for fiction, there are some really fun ways the human mind can go off the rails. Capgras syndrome is when someone thinks their confidantes and family have been replaced by impostors. Fregoli syndrome is similar, but the person thinks one individual is disguised as several people in their orbit. Even places can be involved; individuals sometimes believe their hospital room is actually their own home subjected to elaborate renovations to disguise it. The gangstalking phenomenon seems to be related: people with this condition believe they’re being surveilled and followed throughout the day by a large group of spies working as a team. After reading Robert Guffey’s Chameleo, however, I can’t say I’m convinced that gangstalking is always a delusion.

Writing in Fortean Times, Mark Greener lays out Fregoli, Capgras, and other delusional misidentification syndromes. His thesis is that they might explain certain paranormal phenomena, but for me the fun part is the disorders themselves. Fregoli syndrome was named after Leopoldo Fregoli, an early-20th-century quick-change artist and impressionist. He worked hard to sustain all the characters he created, and he played to acclaim in many countries. Imagine the effort it would take anyone to impersonate multiple people, never mind doing it in rapid succession. And what spy agency would commit the resources required for dozens of people to follow an ordinary person? With any luck Mason will run across someone with Fregoli syndrome in an upcoming tale.

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